I can’t believe I am adding my voice to the tsunami of words roiling over the alleged sexual misconduct of Aziz Ansari.
But writers, for a change, let’s talk about sex.
I have now read multiple articles on this debacle in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Salon, and who knows what else. Along with the original piece as it appears in the rather miserable online journal, Babe.
I like Aziz Ansari. Or, did. Now, I am not so sure. I have thoroughly enjoyed his Netflix show, “Master of None”, as well as some of his standup routines.
And I am a woman fast becoming older; I am now in my sixties.
Why is this important? Our voices are rarely heard.
In the MeToo movement, and in just about every other instance. Unless we are being subjected to a younger feminist telling us that we “just don’t understand all this”, and that “in our day and age women just put up with” bad behavior, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.
Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.
But let’s be honest: the voices of older women are rarely consulted in reference to current permutations of the war between the sexes.
Which is odd, and unfortunate, given that it is my generation of women (and some men) who were the vanguard of the movements against sexual assault and harassment.
And the little-known or, at least rarely discussed, fact that women of all ages are subject to sexual violence and harassment. As I, sadly, have been. And not just in earlier years, but recently. I have reached the sad and angering conclusion that I have been assaulted and/or harassed in every decade of my life.
How’s that for a double dose of dispiriting reality?
So, I think I am qualified to speak out about the affable-seeming Ansari’s public humiliation, as The Atlantic put it.
I have now read Grace’s account five times. This is not, in my opinion as a woman or as a lawyer, a case of rape, assault, or harassment.
But this sure sounds like a case of a man being a crappy lover. And a young woman who–how unusual–wanted him to be a thoughtful, sensitive lover. Or, at least, not an obnoxious, cringe-worthy, relentlessly prowling adolescent-like (as Grace herself states) hookup.
Have I insulted a whole roster of adolescent partners? I think I have. At least, I have insulted my adolescent partners who were, without exception, head and tails above the thirty-something Ansari.
It’s occurred to me, reading the account given by Grace, that Ansari sounds like a man who’s watched way too much internet porn.
His moves, his way of relating to her (or not), his persistent belief, so it seems, that if he just kept moving on her relentlessly, repeating the same aggressive actions (sticking his fingers into her mouth to wet them, then attempting to put them elsewhere), initiating oral sex within what sounds like mere minutes of entering his apartment, assuming that his partner would enjoy being paraded nude before a mirror, and more, that Grace would turn on to him like a lioness in heat.
His apparent near-total lack of awareness of her.
Someone needs to sit Aziz down and clue him in.
Apparently reaching one’s thirties–even in an era of sexual openness and experimentation, and while engaging in funny and relevant patter about gender relations on stage and before the camera–is not sufficient to render one a good lover.
While some people, in some settings, might enjoy the kind of pacing and complete lack of sensitivity that Aziz indulged in, it seems that–no surprise–many of us, most of the time, do not.
In other words, don’t count on it.
This is the sex style of pornography. The much satirized scenario of the (usually) woman who turns on instantaneously at the sight of the hyper-endowed (usually) man, and leaps all over him, crying out “More!” before the action has really even commenced.
Some might claim that this is a typical male fantasy. I am not convinced of that. It might be one male fantasy of many, but men, I have learned over decades, are, most of the time, more complicated than that fantasy suggests.
And yet despite centuries of it being assumed that women “need” seduction and wooing–being wined and dined, as people used to say–most experienced lovers of any and all genders know exceptions to this. Reality is that men and women, in different situations and with partners of varying intimacy, enjoy sexual encounters that unfold in different ways, paces, and patterns.
There’s no one right way to make love. But there is definitely a wrong way.
And the wrong way is to attempt to engage in sexual contact with anyone at any time in any circumstance that is out of step with, unattuned to, and ignorant of the other.
Unaware. Self-focused and selfish. Pushy and controlling.
Blind and deaf to what one’s partner is feeling, to how he or she is responding.
The sad and ugly scene that, apparently, unfolded in Ansari’s apartment highlights the importance of what every good lover throughout time learns (the sooner the better), and that is that satisfying sexual intimacy with another, regardless of how well or for how long one has known one’s partner, is based on an exchange of attention to the other that is nuanced and responsive to the partner’s needs and desires.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly alternative, it’s an exchange of energy, an exchange that as one becomes a better lover, grows increasingly and eventually exquisitely attuned to the other.
And that is all I have to say about the love life of Aziz Ansari. Let’s hope that his, for lack of a better term, “technique” improves with time.
And let’s remind ourselves to not put up with any partner–no matter how famous, or how attractive initially–hopelessly out of touch with our needs and wishes.
All that’s ever resulted in is hating oneself in the morning.